Our Founder Coopetition is a 4-week accelerator program for rural startups, offering a unique blend of cooperation and competition. Our October cohort features 16 rural startups, across industries, from tech to sustainability. Startup Colorado will be running final cohort next spring and is accepting applications.
Let’s meet the founders:
DIVERSION DESIGNERS - AMBER BARBELLA, EAGLE, CO
Amber’s connection to the natural world was inspired by her hometown of Eagle, Colorado. While working with Fort Lewis College’s Zero Waste Initiative, Amber discovered the urgent need to address solid waste issues.
Today, she is the founder of Diversion Designers, a waste consulting firm that travels across Colorado, helping special events and municipalities design sustainable waste systems. The goal is to reduce CO2 emissions at landfills and reallocate resources, which supports a circular economy model. Diversion Designers is a people-centric organization, dedicated to raising awareness about the vital contributions of waste workers to the broader public consciousness.
ANYWHERE CAM - MICHAEL BLECHA, FORT MORGAN, CO
Born and raised in Fort Morgan, Michael Blecha owned and operated a concert production business that enabled him to support concerts on four continents. During the pandemic, he developed AnywhereCam “to make ends meet.”
AnywhereCam is a completely wireless, turnkey security camera solution that uses solar power and cell signal that gives you access to HD surveillance cameras Anywhere you need it. AnywhereCam provides an out-of-the-box, ready-to-go product which includes a proprietary app to view and control your cameras and view video footage from any smartphone or tablet. No power, no Wi-Fi, no problem!
SAM + LEO - DARA ERCK, SNOWMASS VILLAGE, CO
Before founding SAM + LEO, Dara worked in global health, primarily with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in vaccine development. She is a single mom with two kids, Sam and Leo.
SAM+LEO is the first ungendered, all-natural body care and vitamin brand for Gen Z. Their products are vegan and come in environmentally-friendly packaging, including compostable pouches and 100% recycled plastic containers. Their top products include the SAM + LEO Energy Gummy vitamins, a formulation of B complex vitamins.
SWAY HEADBANDS - TANYA FLEMSTER, YUMA, CO
Tanya grew up in Yuma, working on her family’s ranch. With degrees in public relations and photography, her journey took her across the country until bringing her back to Yuma so she could start her own business.
SWAY is a patented headband that incorporates six clips that locks it into place and can be styled in multiple ways. The brand currently has six designs with several more in development. SWAY is manufactured in Yuma, Colorado and employes women on flexible schedules of their choosing.
HOA GURU - MICHAEL DILILLO, BUENA VISTA, CO
Michael DiLillo is a software developer and business owner who has lived in Chaffee County since 1999 with his wife and son. He founded the software development firm Vivatech Software, LLC, and today is embarking on a new startup journey: HOA Guru.
HOA Guru is an affordable, cloud-based subscription software company that helps board members successfully manage their homeowner associations (HOAs) by increasing efficiency, giving personalized attention, and decreasing time to complete tasks.
TENDER FOOTIES - TAMMY GRUBISHA, SALIDA, CO
Tammy an artist with an engineer’s mind. She designs custom pieces of ‘Functional Fine Art,’ thinking outside the box, problem solving, and inventing new tools and ways of doing things; including the creation of Tenderfooties.
Tenderfooties are Merino wool half socks that are the only product on the market that can follow you through every stage of recovery, adding protection, warmth and cushioning. Their extreme cross stretch allows them to go over casts, splints and dressings, then compresses to stay in place inside bunion shoes, braces and walking boots. Tenderfooties are also warm enough to allow blanket-free sleeping; as the pressure of bedding can be excruciatingly painful for sensitive injury and surgery sites.
CHECK YOUR FLIES - CULLEN HASKINS, BUENA VISTA, CO
Originally from Michigan, Cullen is an avid outdoorsman. His youth was spent fishing, boating and hiking. Today, he’s passionate about fishing and finding a way to help small independent fishing businesses grow.
CheckYourFlies.com is an online marketplace platform where anglers and makers in the fishing industry can buy and sell their handmade fishing gear. The platform provides a virtual storefront that allows sellers to create and manage their own shop and products, while connecting buyers and sellers in the fishing industry.
THE HANDTRUCK COMPANY, LLC - JUDY KOCHEVAR, PUEBLO, CO
Judy is a Pueblo native, who’s family settled in Colorado during the late 1800s. After returning home from a career in the corporate world, Judy became the CEO/Owner of The Hand Truck Company. Their Hand Truck 360 is the only multi-directional dolly that can prevent injuries and worker comp claims when team members move heavy or oversized items in tight spaces. Their aim is to increase productivity while preventing injuries.
STEAMBOAT.KIDS - DANIELLA PLACE, STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO
Originally from Boston, Daniella relocated to Steamboat Springs in 2021 with her husband and two kids. Before founding Steamboat.kids, Daniella worked in tech across product operations, account management, enterprise sales and digital advertising.
Steamboat.kids is a website that makes it easy for locals and visitors to find activities for their kids in Steamboat Springs, CO. It has three primary elements: The Guide: A Chatbot that can answer questions such as “what activities can I do with a 5-year-old on a rainy day in Steamboat?”; The Blog: Content about activities in Steamboat; and The Concierge: Custom kid focused trip planning for busy families. The goal is to start with Steamboat Springs and then expand to additional towns.
Julie has lived in Colorado since 2009, and has worked in the environmental conservation field for as many years. Her passion for sustainability motivated the founding of Elements Mountain Compost to address critical climate issues in her community.
Elements Mountain Compost works with businesses and residents in Central Colorado to reduce their carbon footprint by diverting organic waste from the landfill and creating high quality compost products. Elements provides food and yard waste collection and then processes these materials into soil products that benefit plants, lawns, gardens and natural landscapes.
USER CO-OP - MATT MARTENSEN, DURANGO, CO
PREPFUELSLV - ANGELICA QUINTANA, LA JARA, CO
Angelica grew up in the San Luis Valley and today is the owner/operator/founder of several companies, including PrepFuelSLV. This meal prep/catering company strives to support local farmers and producers, while using whole, clean, quality ingredients. FuelPrepSLV packs nutrient-dense, deliciously satisfying “FUEL” into meal boxes, which are delivered weekly to your door or local gym.
PrepFuelSLV meals are made from scratch, with high-quality, organic and local ingredients.
ART MATTERS PRODUCTIONS - DOMINQUE ROBBINS, ROCKY FORD, CO
Dominque is an independent music artist, singer, songwriter and producer whose passion has always been to help and give independent artists a platform to express themselves and build their audience.
He founded Art Matters Production—the first events production company in the area shortly after moving to Rocky Ford. Dominque is currently working on a new project called the Rising Stars Mentorship program, which allows music artists to focus on their goals while having access to the resources at Art Matters Productions. They will receive one-on-one time with Dominque to work on their projects, and will eventually record in the studio.
GREEN WIZARD MICROGREENS - JACKIE & JASON STROHL, CRAIG, CO
Jackie and Jason are microgreens farmers, who know that food is medicine and are happy to share these superfoods with their community. Their microgreens are sustainably grown in an indoor, vertical facility. Green Wizard Microgreens offers compostable packaging, subscriptions, home delivery, and a free recipe book with every order.
They currently produce pea, sunflower, broccoli, and a crunchy mix (pea, sunflower, and radish).
COMMUNITY CENTRIC DEVELOPMENT - KAREN WAINSCOTT, BRUSH, CO
Karen Wainscott is a development professional who began her career in large-scale concert promotion in Virginia. She has worked for businesses and organizations across all sectors specializing in fund development, full cycle grant management, sales, marketing, communications, and strategic planning. In 2023, she established Community Centric Development with Karen Kramer, combining forces after years of individual grant-writing.
In addition to full-service grant support (research, writing, reporting, closeout), Karen and Kandice also offer services for strategic planning, fund development asset creation, and writing marketing copy. Karen and Kandice are both passionate about supporting rural communities and advancing opportunities for historically disinvested communities.
ELECTRIC SOLUTIONS - AMBER MARIE WHERRY, TRINIDAD, CO
When Amber moved to Trinidad, Colorado from St. Louis, Missouri nine years ago, she was interested in installing solar panels on her home, but learned there was no one in the area who provided that service. This led her to research alternate power solutions, eventually landing on generators.
Today, Amber and her husband are the owners of Electric Solutions, a generator sales and installation business in Trinidad. As a Generac-certified Sales and Service Dealer, Electric Solutions can remotely monitor generator health, diagnose problems, and order parts via customer mobile subscriptions.